WESLEY CHAPEL — Brian Colding huddled his Wesley Chapel boys 4x400 relay runners and told them they couldn't win.
The Sunshine Athletic Conference team competition had mathematically been decided the night before. A weather postponement pushed the final event to the following morning, and Colding pleaded with rival coaches to return for the integrity of the meet.
Most did, and despite having no shot at the overall SAC title on the boys side, Colding challenged his runners.
"I was bluntly honest with them," Colding said. "I told them, 'No. Guys, honestly there's no way you can win.' Then I told them they could fold their tents or they could get Josh Browne a conference championship. They went out and smoked everyone."
The Wildcats' relay of Browne, Jeff Webster, Aaron Duncan and Godfrey Boyd hit each baton handoff and sailed smoothly around the track in 3 minutes, 32.6 seconds to beat rival Zephyrhills by 2.6 seconds.
The early morning race perhaps was symbolic of a new dawn to the season. The Wildcats have a history of ferocious postseason performances and last year, after falling to the Gators by 10 at conference, had a 31-point swing in their favor en route to a district title. "It was a significant turnaround," Colding said. "It was a mental challenge."
The Wildcats certainly have some high-performance athletes. Kamran Joyer has shown the ability to break his shot put record over and over. He easily won the SAC with a throw of 51 feet 71/4 inches. Webster has carried on the tradition of Wesley Chapel's dominance in the hurdles, claiming both SAC titles. And Earon Hicks won the triple jump (42 feet 7 inches) and finished second in the long jump (20-91/2) and high jump (5-10).
Of course, track is a sport in which team victories usually come down to how many athletes on your team can score. Obviously, bigger schools score more points, but that's one reason the FHSAA created districts based on school population.
One potentially huge loss is Keenan Reynolds, who was taken to the hospital last week because of dehydration concerns after he collapsed in the infield near Turn 4. Reynolds is good for roughly 12-15 points per meet, mainly in running events.
"He's still not out of the woods," Colding said. "He came to practice Tuesday but missed Wednesday and Thursday (there was no practice Friday). He had an echocardiogram to see what's going on with the heart muscle. There's a chance he might not go."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-5315.
|Class 4A, District 5 at Palm Harbor University
When: Wednesday, 10 a.m.Admission: $5
|Alonso, Countryside, East Lake, Largo, Mitchell, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, Sickles||Mitchell had plenty of standout performances at the SAC meet. Jessica Jagielski won the 800 (2:26.44), and Ricky Trinidad finished third in the 100 (11.39) and fourth in the 200 (23.17). Tyrone Hendrix appears to be in contention for at least three district titles. He won the SAC 100 (11.24) and the 400 (52.52), and placed second in the 200 (23.08). Sebastian Ruiz had a promising performance in the 800 (2:09.22); in the field events, Brandon Mundy won the high jump (6-0), and Taylor Britton placed third in the pole vault (11-6).|
|Class 3A, District 7 at Wesley Chapel
When: Thursday, noonAdmission: $5
|Central, Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Groveland South Lake, Springstead, Wesley Chapel|| The Wildcat girls will be favored to win another district team title along with several individual medals, but the boys will have to pull an upset similar to last year to dethrone the two-time SAC champion Gator boys.
Land O'Lakes is led by distance star Felix Soto, who claimed 800 (2:02.42), 1,600 (4:37.53) and 3,200 (10:03.37) SAC titles, and basically dominates every distance event. The Wildcats' Jasmine Pleasant should battle for the 100 (12.66) and 200 (25.58), an d junior Kamran Joyer continues to enjoy a record-breaking season with the shot put; Ridgewood senior Charlie Minichino is doing the same with the discus (141 at SAC). Rams freshman Karissa Bertling has established herself as a runner to beat after winning the 400 (59.71) and finishing second in the 200 (12.70), Dalia Madison took the long jump (15-6) and Keri Brink won the pole vault (9-6). Gulf senior Courtney McAuliffe won the 1,600 (5:25.08), teammate Jennifer Johnson took the 100 hurdles (16.69) and Gulf's Josh Roberts won the long jump (21-11/2).